This Makes No Sense

| December 29, 2011 | 27 Comments

Pitting Children Against Vets

I have been spending a considerable amount of time having phone and coffee conversations with residents and business owners of Mission Hills and Old Town who are totally dismayed about a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility being proposed for property located directly across from Old Town Academy, a SDUSD Charter School, which currently has upward of 220 students. The property being proposed for the VA facility used to be Thomas Jefferson Law School, located at 2121 San Diego Avenue, right across the street from the school.

Referred to as a “Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation and Treatment Program,” the VA facility would have 40 beds and provide treatment for war veterans who are impacted by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mild to moderate brain injuries and possible substance abuse issues. It will also provide “private, hotel-type accommodations” for its clientele.

There are several reasons that I am shocked and dismayed that this is even being considered. First of all is that the zoning does not allow for a facility of this type without a CUP – a conditional use permit – to allow something that doesn’t belong to be permitted. Second of all, this type of medical treatment facility does not meet with the community plan that many people and organizations have been working on for several years, including the Old Town Chamber of Commerce and Mission Hills Business Improvement District (BID).

Ordinarily, in order for a VA facility of this type to be approved for this site, the zoning would have to change – but here, there is a procedure to avoid the zoning change called a CUP, which changes the zoning for just the affected property. If the CUP changes to support this facility, this could dramatically change the future landscape of the area, and can have a substantial impact on the businesses and residents in close proximity, including Mission Hills.

The unfortunate part of all of this is that the residents and businesses opposed to the zoning change for this medical VA facility are now being tagged as “anti-American,” which is a careless interpretation by a few, including some members of the media. I say shame on them.

The residents and business owners opposed to the zoning change have been proactive and have offered solutions to this need for a VA facility, starting with identifying other sites that “make total sense,” because they are “zoned” for this type of facility, do not carry the risk of closing a neighborhood school, and can be implemented immediately, without delays.

At the same time, when we consider the financial state of our Federal, State and local government, why not even go one step further for a logical and fiscally sound option? Why not place the VA facility on military property, at MCRD? There are vacant buildings and plenty of space to accommodate this, at a dramatically reduced cost. Am I wrong? Or, does that make me anti-American because I want our government to operate more ethically and fiscally responsible?

If it were a drug and alcohol rehab facility for non-veterans, medical professionals throughout the City would be lining up to oppose location of such a facility just 20 feet from a thriving grade school. I am appalled that our elected officials have let this get to this point, where “children are being pitted against vets,” and neighbors who have voiced opposition are being threatened. There is no logical reason for this.

The residents and business owners I’ve spoken to want to help expedite a VA facility, however, with common sense as a primary factor.

It’s time to do what’s right. Select a site for this facility that is within the zoning and neighborhood plan guidelines that provides more property at less cost, and doesn’t break the rules. With that thought, I will continue to ask, “What’s wrong with considering military buildings that are sitting vacant? Why Not?”

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Category: Business, Local News

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